The unique feature of Chinese online literature is that most works are serialized novels that authors write and post in installments (a new form of “content”). Every day, millions of young digital-reading users refresh their mobile apps, just to keep up with the latest daily updates of their favorite reads. For many people who do not have the time to read a book in hard copy, the novels on a mobile phone (a new “connection”) can be easily read whenever they have some spare time.
The installment format also helps the literature websites to implement a pay-for-content mechanism. When authors start to build up large readerships, the online portals offer them contracts and move their works off the free domain. The sites arrange for the authors to write stories in instalments (typically with a total character cap for each post), and readers then pay a tiny fee equivalent to a fraction of US$ 0.01 to read each update, far cheaper than paying for hard copy versions from a book store.
(Review by James Kidd) By following a village in central China as it becomes a city, Yan has found a way to illustrate the country’s incredible transformation, narrated in transparent prose full of lyrical symbolism
Liu: I think that what's unique about sci-fi--at least from the view of a lot of Chinese writers--is that sci-fi is least-rooted in the particular culture that they're writing from.
There's a phrase among Chinese writers that says, "there are no glazed tiles on Mars." What it means is this: Chinese palaces, traditionally, are covered with glazed tiles, or glazed shingles if you will. The point of the phrase is, when you go into space, you become part of this overall collective called "humanity." You're no longer Chinese, American, Russian, or whatever. Your culture is left behind. You're now just "humanity" with a capital H, in space.
Two-day bilingual (Chinese and English) training to be held on Feb 6-7 in Taipei as part of the 2017 Taiwan Int'l Book Exhibition. Includes sessions on editing a book-length translation, editor-as-publisher, case studies on legal issues, on-hands editing workshop and more.
National Book Development Council of Singapore deputy director Kenneth Quek says populist movements, such as We Need Diverse Books, have raised demand in Western markets for stories not set in the US or Europe.
He adds: "The US and British markets, while still quite large, have stagnated. Asia holds a large, somewhat untapped market and Western publishers are beginning to cater to it."
At 68 characters long, the new title is the longest yet for a light novel -- and causing problems both at home and overseas. It's been pointed out that the longer the title is, the more difficult the book becomes to catalog in a database, where space is at a premium. With a 68-character-long title, there may end up not even being room for a description of the book... which is a big problem if it's a new release that needs extra information added to its entry.
On 16th December for the Found in Translation event, as part of the China Changing Festival, at Southbank Centre, she was one of three on a panel discussing contemporary Chinese fiction, with Hong Ying, and Guo Xiaolu. We invited her prior to the discussion to talk more about writing, her cultural encounters, and the challenges of translation.
China Info 24 met famous Chinese author Yan Geling at Southbank Centre’s China Changing Festival last Friday [16 Dec]. In an exclusive interview, she shared her inspiration for writing her latest English novel, Little Aunt Crane, what it means to be labelled as 'a female writer', and how living outside of China has given her a distinctive perspective in understanding the country's history.
On the surface, the protagonist of Ge Fei’s novel is a recognizably down-trodden everyman, a soft-spoken narrator who describes himself to us—in the intimate first person of the narrative—as one of the handful of people in Beijing still capable of building a top-end tube amplifier, eking out a living by hand, producing top-quality, artisanal sound systems. Since the boom years in the 1990’s, when (Western) classical music was still revered and a skilled audio technicians were in hot demand, Cui has seen his craft dwindle and fade. His continued devotion to his craft, then, what he calls “the most insignificant industry in China today,” allows him to tell a simple story about the decline of labor: in a booming economy where “today’s craftsmen more or less exist on the same rung of the social ladder as beggars,” he describes his aesthetic labor as a figure for what has been left behind in the great economic leap forward. Most of his clients are clueless billionaires, aching for extravagance to spend their money on; the rest are self-important intellectuals, drowning in their own pomposity. No one appreciates the delicate art of his craft, or its product; his speakers are pearls bought by swine.
(1) Junkyard Poetics: Ouyang Jianghe’s Phoenix
(2) Of Gods and… More Gods: Idle Talk Under the Bean Arbor
(3) A Man and His Rock
(4) Moonstruck: Wandering the Galaxy with Li Bai
(5) Grief in a Fallen City: Du Fu’s Ever-Present Histories
(6) High Plains Drifter: Li Shangyin
(7) Revolution or Reform: A Discussion of the May 4th Movement
(8) A Male Mencius’ Mother
(9) ‘Cause I’m the Taxman: The Voyages of Yu Gong
(10) Emperor Shen’s New Groove: Song Dynasty Exam Reform
My own concern is that it’s getting harder and harder to get people excited about Chinese books, movies or comics unless they are ‘banned in China.’ This lack of interest in apolitical narratives, or one which fall outside the narrowly defined concept of dissident literature means that people aren’t really engaging with China in a way that allows them to understand what is actually happening in the country today. [...] A total disconnect between China and the rest of the world makes solving tough issues like global warming and rising income inequality that much harder, because we have so few common points of reference.
This is a big difference between, say, translating from Chinese into English as opposed to other Western languages that have similar kind of Greek and Roman, Latin roots. And so because of that if you’re translating, say, into French, or Italian, into German, there are a lot of words that come from the same roots and so it’s kind of a no brainer what your word choice is going to be because there is a very clear equivalent in—not all, but in many cases. In Chinese, it’s not nearly as clean-cut like that. So if you take—I’ll just throw out a term in Chinese like “bēishāng”, which usually is translated something like “sadness” but it could also be translated as “melancholy” or “depression” or any number of other similar terms. And so it’s all about really getting the context right and the register of the language and finding in this context what English term is really best going to express what “bēishāng” was representing in that original Chinese work. And so that means for the translator that we have a lot more leeway to be a little more creative, to have a little more kind of an interpretative intervention into the nuance of the original. It also means there’s more room for mistakes. That if you don’t have a great grasp of the original language you could go the wrong direction and miss that nuance. And so I think it is somewhat different in that sense then when you’re translating from other Western languages.
“We can safely say that all themes once explored in the American and European sci-fi genre have found their manifestation in the Chinese counterpart – things like space exploration, alien contact, artificial intelligence, and life science. Problems of modern development are also addressed, like environmental hazards and the negative effects coming from new technologies. Yet Chinese sci-fi does have its own unique themes as well, such as the attempt to re-deduce and re-display the ancient history of China from a sci-fi angle.”
We’re all familiar with unreliable narrators, those first-person storytellers whose words we are not sure we can trust. In The Invisibility Cloak, Ge Fei takes this to the next level: he gives us an unreliable narrator in an unreliable career struggling with unreliable characters in an unreliable country.
What is reliable in The Invisibility Cloak is the translation. This is Canaan Morse’s first full-length novel, but he is one of a new generation of ambitious translators who are redefining standards of quality in writing English without sacrificing accuracy in treating the Chinese. Lexical range tends to flatten in translation, but checking his English against what Ge Fei wrote I am again and again impressed with Morse’s vocabulary, and his ability to find lively, expressive language that never comes off as stilted or stiff. This is essential for any work in translation, of course, but when the work revolves, as it does here, around questions both of reliability and communicability, it is an added bonus that readers do not need to worry about whether The Invisibility Cloak’s inner life has been left alone in another language.
The number of detained and imprisoned writers in China is among the highest in the world. In an open letter released by freedom of speech group PEN International, and published in the Guardian on World Human Rights Day, the signatories condemn the constriction of freedom of expression by Chinese authorities and say they “cannot stand by as more and more of our friends and colleagues are silenced”.
Dave Haysom ... said it is crucial to understand target readers. ... “These kinds of grants can certainly be helpful, and the money needs to be used in the right way if it’s going to really have a positive impact,” Haysom explained. “One of the most productive ways to achieve that is to forge closer links with foreign publishing houses and gain a better understanding of how they operate.”
The advantages of Chinese characters in avoiding grammatical specificity (advantages to poets, not necessarily to scientists or lawyers) can be analyzed primarily as absences of subject, number, and tense. Each of these three is worth a look . . . subjectlessness, numberlessness, tenselessness.
The Literary Tourist is a column of conversations between literary translators about newly released books in translation. This month Andrea Gregovich interviews poet, editor, and Chinese translator Canaan Morse. Canaan co-founded the literary journal Pathlight: New Chinese Writing as its first poetry editor, won the Susan Sontag Prize for Translation in 2014, and has published translations and book reviews in several international journals, both print and online. The Invisibility Cloak, a captivating experimental novel by Ge Fei, is Canaan’s first translated book.
As usual, we have assembled a list of book-length translations from Chinese into English over the year. Congratulations to all authors and translators! This year’s list is longer than ever, and several books have won international prizes. Your additions, comments, corrections to this list are welcome - please leave a comment below and we’ll update the list. This is our fifth annual list; previous lists are here: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015...........
In 2015 and 2016, Paper Republic were honourable runners-up. Asymptote won in 2015, Words without Borders in 2016. Anyone can nominate any group/collective/organization...so to put in your nominations, see below.
The London Book Fair and UK Publishers Association are seeking entries from non-UK organisations for The Literary Translation Initiative Award at the LBF International Excellence Awards. Closing date is 15 December 2016.
Organisations that have succeeded in raising the profile of literature in translation, promoting literary translators, and encouraging new translators and translated works should apply/be nominated.
Who is eligible? Any company or organisation operating outside the UK, whose scope of achievement is outside the UK.
This is a great opportunity to follow in some illustrious footsteps, to be recognised by your peers and get some good publicity for your company. The shortlist for the awards will be unveiled in February and the winner announced at a gala awards event on Tuesday 14 March, during LBF.
To enter or learn more about the awards go to www.londonbookfair.co.uk/awards
The Chinese name of the grant (《上海翻译出版促进计划》翻译资助) translates more literally as the "Shanghai Translation Publishing Promotion Scheme translation grant". The terms and conditions can be found here. Details of the winners of 2016 Shanghai Translation Grant can be found here.
You may never know for sure
After this gust of wind,
There isn't going to be more…
Of course, the wind blows.
What I meant to ask is this:
What has a gust of wind done to your hair?
Has it knocked you down on the ground?
Or has it uprooted you in the mid air,
crushed your bones and made
your liver, stomach, intestine and lung
stormed down like bullets
hard hitting on that roof top?
Bring up the name Xue Yiwei in China and millions and millions of people, from professors to factory workers, know exactly who you are talking about. He is one of the country's best known and most celebrated writers. His novels and short story collections are bestsellers: contemporary classics. Ha Jin, the award-winning Chinese American writer has called Xue Yiwei a "maverick ...who stays alone and aloof, far from the restive crowds back in his homeland." Far indeed.
At China Reading, about 70 per cent of our revenue is from e-reading via mobile apps and websites. The company owns nine e-reading platforms with a combined 600 million registered readers. They pay for VIP chapters after reading some parts free of charge. We share the income with authors. We had 4 million contract authors last year and more than 10,000 writers are joining the ranks annually. We pay around 80 million yuan (HK$90 million) a month in copyright fees to the authors. Popular writers could earn as much as 500,000 yuan a month.
To understand the dynamics of Sino-African cultural exchanges better we did a survey of Chinese literature available in translation across Africa.
The results are far from exhaustive. They suggest that the strategy has had limited success. But they also highlight isolated cases that exemplify the potential for mutual enrichment.
The research suggests that the translation of Chinese literature in Africa primarily fulfils a ceremonial and diplomatic function. The ceremonies around book donations to African libraries are a key example. Much more needs to be done to generate meaningful cultural interaction and exchange.
By the River: Seven Contemporary Chinese Novellas is now available from Oklahoma University Press. Co-edited by Charles A. Laughlin, Liu Hongtao and Jonathan Stalling, this is the first collection to present novellas by multiple contemporary authors, and includes an introductory essay on the novella in China by Laughlin with Liu Hongtao. The stories are Jiang Yun's "The Beloved Tree" (蒋韵，《心爱的树》, Laughlin), Xu Zechen's "Voice Change" (徐则臣，《苍声》，Laughlin), Han Shaogong's "Mountain Songs from the Heavens" (韩少功，《山歌天上来》，Lucas Klein), Chi Zijian's "A Flurry of Blessings" (迟子建，《福翩翩》，Eleanor Goodman), Fang Fang's "Love and its Lack are Emblazoned on the Heart" (方方，《有爱无爱都是铭心刻骨》，Goodman), Li Tie's "Safety Bulletin" (李铁，《安全简报》，Laughlin), and Wang Anyi's "The Sanctimonious Cobbler" (王安忆，《骄傲的皮匠》，Andrea Lingenfelter). More details are available in the Amazon.com listing.
Here, Martina Codeluppi introduces a Young Adult story by Yan Ge, writes about her experience of translating Yan Ge's work into Italian, and interviews Yan Ge and translator Nicky Harman, who has translated Yan Ge's work into English.
For Chinese authors, the question of writing on the city is extremely important. There are many other writers like me who were born in the countryside and moved to big cities. I left my hometown at sixteen, I lived for twenty years in Shanghai, and then I lived for sixteen years in Beijing. Authors like us have spent most of our lives in cities. This is a question I put to my students on a regular basis, and many of them have said our fundamental experiences are still tied to the countryside. But I had one student who gave me a different answer that’s particularly correct—he said that fundamentally China has always been built around rural value systems, and therefore cities are still unfamiliar to us. We don’t understand them. Writing The Invisibility Cloak, I made a point of going to southern Beijing, walking around the streets, memorizing the images, the scenes, understanding what went where, and what was there. I was inspired by a great critic who pointed out if you’re going to write about the city, you have to write about a specific place—you can’t write purely on the basis of your imagination alone.
Zhang Xinxin's artwork - the banner image for the new blog "Chinese books for young readers" - appears without permission or acknowledgement (or even a caption) in Wen yi bao's 《文艺报》feature on the state of China's children's book publishing, "How much gold in the 'Golden Decade'?" #picturesmeanbusiness
Questions from both Chinese and non-Chinese audience members inspired robust debate, proving that the job of a literary translator – especially from Chinese to English – is certainly no walk in the park.
Megacity Fictions aims to investigate how writers and artists are responding to vast cityscapes which mutate and spread at unparalleled rates, often displaying extremes of global wealth and poverty; vertical towers built on new economic wealth surrounded by sprawls of immigrant slums. Submissions in creative non-fiction, fiction, ficto-critical writing and photography, exploring particular megacities, or the concept of massive urban hubs in general, are all invited.
If you're interested in submitting work or volunteering your services as a translator then you can get in touch by email (email@example.com), or via the form at the Megacity Fictions page here.
Metropolises such as Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou are all fairly well represented in fiction... but what about the likes of Wuhan and Tianjin? Any ideas?
With the success of Cixin Liu’s Three-Body trilogy, and the launch of Ken Liu’s Invisible Planets this week, the interest in Chinese Science Fiction is bound to grow. This short history of the long march of Chinese SF provides an insider’s account of the many forces that have shaped, sustained, and led to its emergence as a new global phenomenon.
Beyond the simple exaggerations of rapid urbanization, there are elements of the fantastical in The Explosion Chronicles. As Yan explains in an afterword, his approach is not one of realism but of mythorealism, the: "product of contemporary China's incomprehensible absurdity". He suggests the only way of conveying and representing it is through this mythorealism, and it is a fairly effective approach.
My suspicion is that there are a lot of people out there like me — people who are being held back not so much by the difficulty of learning Chinese, as by the difficulty of finding things to read in Chinese, so that we can actually get the practice we need to become (and stay) functionally literate.
Ignorance and apathy are self-perpetuating, of course: The less one reads in Chinese, the harder it is to pick up a book or story to read casually.
Setting aside, for the moment, questions of censorship and literary merit (which seem to, somewhat conveniently, to do double duty as pitches for dissident lit), genre fiction—particularly short fiction—provides interesting examples of ‘marginal’ or ‘weird’ literature: the queer, the dystopian, the creepy.
There are many things you can’t write about in China. Anything that challenges the official accounts of Mao Zedong and other prominent Communist Party officials is forbidden. So, too, are works that touch on the Great Famine, the Cultural Revolution or the Tiananmen Square massacre.
. . . one American student argued that tianxia was a synonym for the word “imperialism,” as to him it implied ultimate subjugation to a stronger political entity. For Western readers who may often regard the nation-state as the foundation of modern international politics, the deeper nuances of tianxia can therefore be rather difficult to grasp.
“A warm, delightful book set in the countryside of China during the Cultural Revolution. Strong, well-drawn relationships, tough enough to survive anything, are at the heart of the story and carry the reader through great hardship. I only wish I had been able to go to school on the back of a buffalo! …The descriptions of Chinese life are totally authentic, and the novel is inspirational and moving”
Yes, China also noticed that Bob Dylan received the Nobel Prize for Literature.
It is akin to Cui Jian [崔健] receiving the prize, argues Zhang Yiwu [张颐武], a professor at Peking University. “This year’s Nobel Prize for Literature was a complete surprise, an unexpectedly novel approach – a Black Swan, even. Yes, Bob Dylan has been a global megastar of music since the 1960s, and he influenced the new social movements of the era. But it’s a bold move for a prize that has been a staid presence in the literary landscape for so many years. It’s certainly innovative. In the age of the internet, anything’s possible.”
[…] Chen Xiaoming [陈晓明], another literary critic, has also remarked on the unexpectedness of the award. “Perhaps this is something to do with the personal tastes of the committee,” he suggests, “a moment of nostalgia. Or perhaps reading his biography reminded them of their own youths, like some kind of performance art. Or another possibility is that this is their way of encouraging people to pay less attention to the prize, to stop treating it with such reverance. You’re all expected us to give it to Adonis, well okay then, we’ll give it to Bob Dylan.”
—translated from 诺贝尔文学奖颁给音乐人为什么是鲍勃·迪伦？
Here are a selection of responses from Chinese authors (collected from Weixin and Weibo by the Paper Republic team):